The American Snout butterfly is small and unassuming with a prominent “nose” for which it is named. This butterfly is the one that, in some seasons, travels in clouds across our city for several weeks each spring and fall. But unlike other animals and insects that migrate, the American Snout butterflies don’t really have a destination. They start moving when their numbers get too big as a way to ensure that there aren’t too many butterflies in one area. The local population moves from one part of Texas to another with no real goal other than to spread out.
These days, of course, this "migration" is also a strong population control measure, as they travel low to the ground and end up getting decimated by cars. (When you have to clean your car each spring and fall, those are almost all American Snout butterflies that you are washing off.) We just had some pass through, though not as many as in the past few seasons. Still here and there you can see one flitting about.
This slightly disorganized behavior of the American Snout reminds me a lot of my internal state at the moment. I get overwhelmed by too much news and anxiety and move about rather aimlessly, trying to just do something else, without really knowing what, and not trying particularly purposefully or effectively. I run around, going from one place to another, hoping the waves of stress will just disappear, but all the while I am getting pummeled by the metaphorical traffic. Instead of stepping away from the madness, I just launch myself into this cycle again and again.
But I think it would be better to be like the monarch. Monarch butterflies have a whole strategy for migration that takes place over the course of a year, involving thousands of miles and multiple generations. You could almost call their migration designed. It is astounding what they accomplish and how they possibly know how to do it. They also pass through here seasonally, but unless you happen to be standing
beside a particularly tasty flower, you have to look up to see them, gliding high above on the air currents.
For months now, each day has brought with it an overwhelming amount of stress-inducing news. And there will be more today and more tomorrow and more the day after that. It’s not going to go away. But instead of taking it all in and living in a constant state of anxiety, let’s try to let go. Whatever we want the most or whatever we fear the most, let’s give that over to God and listen to what God wants for us.
It’s not that we need to be hermits or go on a news fast. It’s not that we shouldn’t engage with things that are important. It’s that we need to listen for what God is telling us is important and how we can best be God’s instruments so that we can stay above all of the distractions and stressors constantly attacking us. So that we can see ourselves and everything around us clearly.
This week, when you feel that stress response tightening in your chest, instead of getting busier to try to make it go away or ignoring it, acknowledge it out loud. You can say to yourself, “I feel stressed” over and over until you actually stop what you are doing. Then you can take a deep breath in through your diaphragm and out slowly. If you can, go for a walk or do something else meditative and try for a time to be a listener instead of a doer. Try to rise above the din and hear God's voice.
This week, let’s be good listeners. Let’s stay focused on the purpose and plan that God has for our lives. Let’s stay up above the traffic, where the light is bright and the air is clear. This week, let's fly higher.
by Dianne Garcia, Pastor of Family Ministry